The Liberal Party will introduce a Municipal Nominee Program and abolish the citizenship application fee as cornerstones of its immigration strategy if it wins the upcoming October 21 general election.
The party headed by current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will empower local communities across Canada to directly sponsor new immigrants for Canadian permanent residence.
“This program will allow local communities, chambers of commerce, and local labour councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants,” states the Liberal Party platform, released this week.
Trudeau’s Liberals also plan to make the successful Atlantic Immigration Pilot permanent, with both the AIP and the new Municipal Nominee Program allocated a minimum of 5,000 spaces per year.
The party also promises to make it free for permanent residents to apply for citizenship – a process currently costing an applicant $630.
Why A Municipal Nominee Program?
Motivating immigrants to settle in Canada’s smaller towns and cities is a challenge dating back many years.
Section 6 of Canada’s Charter gives permanent residents freedom of movement to live and work anywhere in the country.
As a result, the vast majority of new immigrants settle in Canada’s major cities, be it Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.
This leaves smaller communities struggling with the impact of a shrinking labour market, aging population and high out-migration rates.
Since it was elected in 2015, the Liberal government has tackled the issue using pilot immigration programs.
First, it launched the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and then the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, both specifically aimed at bringing more skilled immigrants to smaller communities in Canada.
The Municipal Nominee Program will seek to take this further, by allowing employers in designated communities an option to directly nominate immigrants with the skills and experience they require, but that are in short supply.
It will compliment the existing Provincial Nominee Program, which has grown to the point where it will welcome 61,000 new immigrants in 2019, rising to more than 71,000 annually, by 2021,
How Will A Municipal Nominee Program Work?
There is little detail in the Liberal platform document on how the new program will work, except to say that ‘local communities, chambers of commerce, and local labour councils’ will be allowed to ‘directly sponsor new immigrants.
It also states that a minimum of 5,000 spaces per year will be available for the new program.
Essentially, the program is expected to work by employer sponsorship.
With employment, newcomers will choose to live where they have jobs lined up before coming to Canada. In exchange they will receive permanent residence.
Why Remove the Citizenship Fee?
Since coming to power in 2015, the Liberals have removed a number of controversial changes made by the previous Conservative government that made it more difficult to qualify for Canadian citizenship.
The main change was reducing the permanent residence physical presence requirement.
The Conservatives had increased the requirement to four years in the last six spent as a permanent resident. The Liberals reduced the requirement to three years in the last five.
Removing the citizenship fee can be seen as an extension of making the process more accessible. The anticipated outcome is that more permanent residents who meet the requirements will decide to apply for Canadian citizenship.